We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris Via and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chris, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I have been in Information Technology, specifically software and web development, since I was 15 (I am now 36). While there is room for creativity in my day-job, it is bereft of the creative freedom I get in my literary pursuits. I have been a lifelong reader but a course on self and society in literature during my B.A. gripped me in a way I could not shake. Before I walked for my undergraduate diploma I was already taking graduate classes in literature and writing. Reading and thinking about literature is not just something I do in my spare time to decompress from work, although that is a dimension of it–as Novalis said: “Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.” Literature, for me, is a way of life, and I am impelled to share it with people. When I first started the YouTube channel in the summer of 2019 I had no idea there would be so many people interested in the books I love. Now, as time presses on and new subscribers show up every day I find the creative possibilities endless. During the day I am beholden to my employer, but with Leaf by Leaf I can do whatever I want.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
When I started the YouTube channel in 2019 I had no idea what I was doing other than yammering on about books I love. My early videos are shot on a 14-year-old camera, using the crummy on-board microphone. The first couple of videos don’t even show my face (though they do feature my prized home library). Over time I have had to learn new skills: being natural on camera, maintaining eye contact, video editing, and so on. But I told myself I would just see what happens and make decisions about investing in equipment later. About 18 months later I surpassed 4,000 subscribers and have upgraded both the audio and video equipment. There are thousands of “BookTube” channels out there, and I have watched very, very few of them. For me I don’t want to burden myself to perform; I simply want to share my thoughts on the books I read that I think other people should read too. In general, I don’t read many contemporary or best-seller books, but it wouldn’t make any sense to cover these anyway since the big publishing houses spend exorbitant amounts on marketing. I favor books that are not typically backed by big budgets but that I feel are much more important than the former types of books. My goal in front of the camera is to share my most striking thoughts gleaned while reading. I have been publishing written book reviews (Rain Taxi, Splice, 3:AM Magazine, Arts Fuse, The Rupture) since before the YouTube channel and my rules are the same for both venues: 1. Support every assertion with at least one solid example. 2. Never talk about what a book is not. 3. Incorporate secondary literature where necessary. 4. Never try to be cleverer than the book. I cannot say how my channel is different from the wealth of channels out there, but I do put much effort into each video to make the content as substantive as possible without saturating it. I strive to present engaging thoughts about and compelling elements of all the books I feature. It continues to be a work in progress and regardless of the size of the audience I will continue to improve myself as a reader and a literary evangelist.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I am pretty much a homebody. Probably not a great question for me.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I could not do anything of any worth without my wife.